More Caffeine, Please – Part 1

May 4th, 2009 by | Print

more-caffeine-please-photoFirst up in the solopreneur series of interviews is Greg Digneo, the solo entrepreneur behind More Caffeine, Please and The Startup Network.

 

Greg and I met through participating on Entrepreneur Connect, an online business forum where entrepreneurs and other working professionals share business ideas and discuss issues.

 

Following is a series of questions that I constructed for Greg – some focused on generic issues pertinent for any solopreneur while others were specific about his business.

 

 

TSG:     Your site mentions the inspiration behind More Caffeine, Please. What feedback have you received that you have accomplished your goal of inspiring others?

 

GD:     The feedback I’ve received has been great.  I get at least one email a week telling me that I’ve given someone the inspiration to start a new venture that they’ve been wanting to start for years.  It has truly has been the most rewarding part of this whole experience. 

 

 

TSG:     Can you give percentages to the following four items as contributing factors in your decision for creating your business: previous work experience, personal strengths, a love for the type of business and the perceived amount of money that you could earn?

 

GD:         Previous work experience – 5%

                Personal Strengths – 20%

                A love of the type of business – 60%

               Perceived amount of money I could earn – 15%

 

 

TSG:     How much time did you spend on research and planning prior to opening for business?

 

GD:     Not a whole lot.  I decided what types of marketing services I was going to offer and what my value proposition was going to be.  That took me about 4 hours.  The next day I was open for business. 

 

 

TSG:     Now that you are up and running, do you feel that you spent not enough time, just the right amount of time, or too much time on research and planning? 

 

GD:     I feel that I’ve spent just the right amount of time researching and planning.

 

 

TSG:     Why?

 

GD:     I have written long and elaborate business plans in the past, and what I can say is that once you’ve finished and you have to look for that first customer, your business plan goes out the window.  All of a sudden, it doesn’t matter how big the market is, or how much of it you’re going to capture.  If you can’t get one customer, then there is no reason to worry about financial projections.  Now that I’ve opened my doors and have some idea of what it takes to find customers and deliver great value to them, I do plan for growth and development about an hour or so per day.

 

 

TSG:     What was the thought process behind naming your business?

 

GD:     The image of entrepreneurs, especially in the technology sector, is a guy (or two) working in the garage, laptops open, pizza boxes on the floor, and empty coffee cups all over the place.  The guys are working late into the night strung out on coffee and lattes.  The name is a play off of that image and scenario.

 

 

TSG:     What type of customer / reader are you a perfect fit for?

 

GD:     My ideal customer is a small technology entrepreneur in the software/electronics industry.  They are usually doing between $500K and $5 million in sales.

 

 

TSG:     Why did you choose this demographic?

 

GD:     There are a few reasons.  First, I am a tech geek at heart.  I love reading about and playing with technology and gadgets and software applications.  Also, my education as a computer engineer makes me an ideal communicator to technology entrepreneurs.  I chose the small business sector simply because that is my first love.  I love the passion and energy that flows from a small business that you simply don’t find at a large business.

 

 

TSG:     If you had to take the Tweeter challenge of describing your unique value proposition (UVP) for your target market in 140 characters or less, what would you write?

 

GD:     Leverage knowledge in tech, math, and marketing to generate profits to small tech companies.

 

 

TSG:     You give a great bulleted breakdown of who you are on your site. Why did you choose to do this?

 

GD:     I did this so that people can know who I am.  I don’t agree with the statement “It’s nothing personal, it’s business.”  I think business is personal.  People want to work with other people, not businesses.  I will never meet most of my customers face to face.  However, that shouldn’t give me an excuse to be anonymous.  If anything, it should make me work harder to make my customers feel as if they know who I am. 

 

 

TSG:     What surprises have you encounter since launching your business?

 

GD:     I’m surprised about just how human social media is.  I work with people I’ve met in forums and on Twitter and in various communities who I’ve never seen face – to – face, yet, I consider them good friends of mine.  These people are there when I need some advice – they are sounding boards and confidants. 

 

I am also amazed at how easy and fast a business can build an international reputation.  If you do great work, or have a great product (not good, but great) then word about your product or service can travel fast.  The same holds true if it is poor.

 

 

TSG:     Did you change anything in your business due to these surprises?

 

GD:     Yes.  While I still network at seminars and conferences, I concentrate most of my networking online. 

 

 

TSG:     Why did you decide to go solo?

 

GD:     I decided to go solo for a few reasons.  First, I couldn’t find anyone as passionate as I was to get through the initial weeks/months of struggling.  Second, I wanted to develop scalable systems and roles at my own pace.

 

 

TSG:     Have you ever outsourced any aspects of your business?

 

GD:     I know where my strengths lie.  And I know where my weaknesses are.  Most of the projects I do for customers are multi-dimensional.  It’s impossible to think that I would be good at all those parts.  So, yes, I do outsource many aspects of the business.  The key is managing those outsourced projects so that they exceed your customer’s expectations.  After all, even though I didn’t do the work, my name is on it.

 

 

TSG:     So when you outsource, your customer still has one point of contact for the project? You are not referring other businesses to work directly with the customer?

 

GD:     Yes, there is only one point of contact.  It keeps everything consistent.  I let them know who will be doing the work, and I show the customer the portfolio, but in the end, I am the only contact point. 

 

 

TSG:     Are these subcontractors bringing any exposure or business to you?

 

GD:     Not as much as I would like.  The problem is, is that they aren’t bringing a lot of business to themselves, either.

 

 

TSG:     Have you ever engage in any joint ventures?

 

GD:     Not yet, but would love to do so in the near future. 

 

 

TSG:     What types of businesses do you see as being potentially good JV partners?

 

GD:     This is the first time I’ve really thought about it.  It’s probably the reason I’ve never engaged in a JV in the past.  However, if I had to think about it, I would probably say a business coach who excels at an area of business that is not marketing – whether that’s a financial advisor or operations.

 

 

TSG:     Do you have any plans to take on partners or employees in the future or do you prefer to remain a solopreneur?

 

GD:     I do have plans to grow the business with employees and partners.  This is just a personal preference. 

 

 

TSG:     Is there a timeline or certain goals that you want to achieve before bringing on more people to your team?

 

GD:     Yes, my timeline to bring more people to my team is the first half of next year.  By that time, I hope to have the revenue and systems in place to support growth.  But as I’m sure you know, you can plan all you want, sometimes it simply doesn’t work out.

 

 

TSG:     How do you draw traffic to your site?

 

GD:     I draw traffic to my site in a few ways.  I participate in forums such as the one on Entrepreneur.com.  I participate in almost every interview request and public relations are a huge part of that.  However, the best driver of traffic to my site is word of mouth.  Someone will recommend my site to a friend that needs marketing help, or a blog post will show up on stumbleupon, or reddit, or a site such as that. 

 

 

TSG:     What is “A Morning Jolt”?

 

GD:     A Morning Jolt is an e-newsletter that I publish.  I interview businesses about varying topics and provide useful and pragmatic information to my readers on how they can improve their business, based on the success of other business owners.

 

 

TSG:     What is The Startup Network?

 

GD:     The Startup Network is sort of an umbrella of More Caffeine, Please and A Morning Jolt.  Thestartupnetwork.com will be a small community where small business owners and marketers can come together to share opinions on projects they are currently working on, and ideas to grow their businesses.

 

 

TSG:     I notice that many solopreneurs use the terms “us” and “we” when describing their business. Why do you think they do this?

 

GD:     I use the term us and we because I’m not the only person who will be working on the project.  I outsource the parts of the project that I’m not strong in.  I want to convey to my customer that yes, even though I’m the only one in the company, a team of incredible talent will work on helping you increase revenue.

 

 

TSG:     Who inspires you?

 

GD:     From a marketing standpoint, my biggest inspiration is Seth Godin.  From a business standpoint, my biggest inspiration is my Grandfather, Creator of DiBruno Brothers House of Cheese.

 

Thank you to Greg for his participation and time.

 

One thing that I should mention is that Greg started up More Caffeine, Please after getting laid off from a job. Instead of going back to work for a company that had a say in his future, he decided it was time to build a business for him. He committed to a goal of launching an internet based business with only $500 in start up funds and within 30 days.

 

With so many newly unemployed looking for the latest in get-rich-quick schemes, I believe Greg is a real inspiration proving that you can create a business that you love, quickly and with modest funding.

 

Stay tuned for the second interview where Greg and I will discuss how he launched his business and what his revenue projections are for the first year.

 

To check out More Caffeine, Please and subscribe to a Morning Jolt, go to: http://morecaffeineplease.com/

 

All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide

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